Amusing Stuff

Friday, March 03, 2006

Grey Gangsters Get State Pension

The Times March 03, 2006
From Leo Lewis in Tokyo

Too old and weak to beat people up for money? Don't worry, the Japanese government will take care of you! All you need is a letter from your Gang Boss to certify that you're unfit for work!
- ckl

YAKUZA gangsters who have supposedly left the criminal fold or grown too old to beat money out of debtors are being helped by the Government to claim benefits from Japan’s creaking welfare system.

In a bizarre twist of bureaucratic logic, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has drafted what amounts to an ex-Yakuza welfare charter in an effort to stamp out mafia benefit cheats.

The revelation that perhaps hundreds of ex-Yakuza have exploited this and are now living on benefits comes at a sensitive time. Earlier this week, it emerged that the number of households living on welfare in 2005 hit the million mark for the first time.

The Yakuza is Japan’s mafia, with tens of thousands of members and protection, gambling and loan-sharking rackets across the country.

Under the new guidelines, all a gangster has to do is provide the state with a letter from his old gang to prove that he is out of the game and demonstrate that he is unfit to work and the welfare cash is his.

Dozens of apparently ex-Yakuza are now living on state handouts. Some have left their gangs as penniless dropouts. Others, either through injury or old age, have proved that they can no longer earn a living. Ministry insiders say, however that there are likely to be many Yakuza claiming benefits without a genuine “letters of excommunication”.

A spokesperson for the Health Ministry said that it was “extremely difficult” to tell whether a letter was fake.

The guidelines were drawn up in an effort to help local governments deal with welfare claimants who appeared with the tell-tale signs of a Yakuza past — usually tattoos and a minor criminal record.

In many cases, their destitution backed their benefit claims, but authorities were unsure whether to allow ex-crooks to collect welfare payments. The ministry solved this by stipulating the need for a letter from a crime boss.

“The welfare benefits supplied to the organised crime gang members might have been the source of financing for the gang itself. It’s taxpayers’ money, so we cannot just ignore such a thing. So we think it’s very important to specifically lay down these guidelines and stop the unjustified supply of welfare benefits to people who are still gang members,” said Mika Sakurai, a Health Ministry official.

The revelation that one million Japanese are on welfare provided ammunition for critics of economic reforms by the Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi. The evidence suggests that under his stewardship, Japan has lost its relative social equality and split into a society of haves and have-nots.

“In any country, in any given era, there are always income gaps. But they’re not always a bad thing; what’s important is not to only look at the gaps, but to take social competition as an opportunity for citizens to learn from one another and bring out the best in everybody,” Mr Koizumi said this week.

Link here:
Times Online